OBVIOUSLY, THIS IS A DUMB MISTAKE
Write with more impact!
More zip and zest!
What magic must there be in making words sizzle on the page, and perhaps leap from an announcer’s lips as if frantic newts scampering away from a hot griddle of garter snakes?
Obviously, you have no idea.
But one of the first, obvious things to do is stop using a word like, “Obviously.”
Want to see?
Look at how much punch is in this one line after removing the adverb:
You have no idea.
That word is obviously standing between your idea and your reader.
We’re going to call that word a “crutch word.”
It’s one of those words that we lean on every day because it’s there and it’s easy and we got used to it when we were small children.
Another word we got used to as even smaller children was, “Goo.”
As in, “Goo goo.”
We stopped saying that one.
Is it not time we stopped goo’ing up the works using words that don’t move things along? Should we not stop allowing our words to slump and slumber? Shouldn’t we stop dragging our fat sentences across the page like lead-filled plaster casts of broken body parts? Instead, why aren’t we vaulting into the air on vital, rippling musculatures of verbal lean?
And is that preceding paragraph awful?
But you’ve read this far. Why?
Two reasons. One, there’s an initial promise of something better and more profitable.
Two, that paragraph was not expected. It’s fast. It flies. It surprises. And it doesn’t do that by leaning on crutch words like, “Obviously.”
As has been established in previous episodes of this missive, one must write fast—even if it means committing grammatical transgressions like “fast,” which ought to correctly be an adverb like quickly or (less correctly) “fastly.” (Good grammar is optional if the impact is more important.)
Write! Write as quick as silver streaks across a red hot skillet. Whatever that means. It sounds fast.
Then, after writing, one must edit. Edit it. Ed-it. Edit.
Let’s say you’re writing a 60-second radio script. That needs to be about 150 words of comin’ out swingin’.
It might be swingin’ like a punch-drunk fighter in what will be an unfortunate face-down situation on the canvas.
Or it might be swingin’ like a big band in front of a floor full of hep cats cuttin’ a rug to all that jazz, daddio.
Or it might be swinging like an old tire at the end of a knotted rope tied to the branch of a grandaddy oak tree on a steamy summer day where the only respite from the swelter is in the shade of that green, leafy canopy while mom makes an icy pitcher of lemonade and a lazy banjo plinks away in the background.
Three different ways to swing. But not one of them says, “Obviously, you want to swing.”
Or, none of them says that right now, that is. Earlier, a crutch word may have been in there, back when your relentless scribe was in a speed-writing brain dump onto the page in an effort to puke up anything that might make sense here.
After the dumpage, I went back and used my pen like a surgeon’s scalpel, slicing away the fat and bother.
If you want more punch in your prose, you can’t saddle it upon the threadbare horse blanket of words that don’t spur it into action.
What words are they?
We’re talking about words like, “Obviously,” “Actually,” “Basically,” “Literally,” (which is literally almost never used properly), “So,” “Well,” “Look,” “Awesome,” (almost always never true), “Seriously,” “Totally,” “Essentially,” “Really,” “Just,” “Right,” and “Very.”
Oh, and let’s not forget that super-annoying crutch word of the 21st century...
There, I said it. Super awesome or what?
Write your brain-dump blather draft.
Then, make it make more sense.
After that, go through it again and ask yourself about every single word, “Do I need this?”
You will often find yourself loaded up on crutch words standing in the way of actual impact, magnitude, swagger or sizzle.
Cutting out such words helps your other words talk smack.
And while you’re at it, be certain to kill, kill, kill your darlings.
There will always be some kind of cuteness in there, all fuzzy and fun and rolling around right in the way of getting things done.
And you adore it.
Crush it! Squash it like a bug! Execute it with extreme prejudice!
What exactly is a darling and how doth one spot it?
Good question for another time. I have already overstayed my welcome.
Words good. Edits better.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in Park City
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.